Tips and Tricks: Writing the right cover letter

By |  July 6, 2017 0 Comments

“To whom it may concern” is not the proper way to introduce yourself in a cover letter. Unless, of course, you want it to go to the bottom of the stack, or worse, the circular file.

This is a trying time in our industry. Everyone is trying to hire an assistant! Nationally, one site lists more than 80 assistant and 23 second assistant positions. The GCSAA job board reflects similar numbers.

Obviously, some are the same jobs posted on different boards. In the south Florida area, eight open assistant positions at good clubs are advertised right now. Starting salaries are better now than last year. To say it is a highly competitive market is accurate. Competitive in one way: clubs trying to fill open positions. Unfortunately, most of the few résumés we get won’t get an interview because of simple mistakes.

“To whom it may concern” was the start of a cover letter I received recently. I know I put my contact info in the job listing, but I re-checked anyway. “To the hiring manager” was another opener. My contact info was on the listing more than once. It’s never too early to make a bad impression.

I also received another cover letter and résumé that was so vague, I wasn’t sure for what job this applicant was applying. (BTW, I was only advertising one position). I’ve received several that were too long, and some that were too short. Cover letters still are important, especially in management positions. Cover letters are read by someone who will decide whether to talk to you further. Does your cover letter represent you well enough that the decision maker considers it worth his/her time to interview you?

Some obvious tips come to mind:

  • Check the job posting to make sure you address your cover letter to the right person. Then, make sure you address it to the right person. Redundant, yes, important, yes. Wrong name or wrong company is a major mistake that I see every time I advertise a position.
  • Cover letters are not “one size fits all.” Do not use the same cover letter for different jobs.
  • Grammar is still important. Don’t think you can get by on spell check and your own ability to spell check. Have someone double check you.
  • No more than one page, please. No matter the position and your qualifications, a wordy cover letter goes nowhere.
  • Qualifications. Simple examples directly related to open position are fine. Avoid using superior, exemplary, outstanding or other ridiculous descriptions of your qualifications. It’s OK to tell your story. Make it about why you are the right person for the job. Try not to rehash your résumé. No unsupported claims, either. It all comes out in the end.
  • Research the company or club to which you are applying. A little bit goes a long way here. Again, don’t get carried away. Maybe you will find a great idea while researching. Maybe you’ll decide it’s not the right fit based on your research.
  • Follow the instructions on the job posting. Twitter is good for getting the word out, but a little too casual for official job search. Follow-up with cover letter and résumé.

Cover letters are the first document regarding you that a potential employer reads. In our profession, it’s still widely recommended to send cover letters for every job for which you apply. Résumés have structure and guidelines that you should follow strictly. There are plenty of online resources, and GCSAA has a great team dedicated to help with résumés/cover letters.

I’m not sure how many assistants (30 plus) that I have had the pleasure of working with through the years, but each one began their career with me by attaching an acceptable cover letter with their résumé.

Job hunting is all about finding the right match for both parties. Give yourself the best chance with a good cover letter. #justsaying.

This is posted in Columns

About the Author: Steven Wright

Steven Wright, CGCS, is director of golf course/landscape operations at Boca West CC in Boca Raton, Fla. This is his first column for Golfdom. He can be reached at or followed at @wrightsteve19.

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